Members of a bizarre internet cult have breached strict Australian health laws by donating their kidneys to hospitals as “living sacrifices” for God.
The Jesus Christians cult claims the members lied to health authorities in Victoria and NSW so they could donate their kidneys to strangers in need of a transplant.
In Australia, kidney donations are barred for anyone apart from family members, friends or those with an emotional connection to prevent organs being sold on the black market.
Jesus Christians also urge members to donate parts of their livers.
Health Minister Bronwyn Pike has ordered an investigation.
Ms Pike said she was concerned that vulnerable cult members could be coerced into giving up their kidneys and might not be in a fit state to understand the consequences of their decision.
She said lying to doctors and other medical practitioners was totally unacceptable.
She added that a national review of organ donation laws was under way and Victoria would examine the recommendations closely.
The Australian Medical Association also warned cult members could be putting themselves and organ recipients at risk.
Jesus Christians leader Dave McKay told the Herald Sun members had undergone intensive psychological screening before being allowed to donate their kidneys and had done so of their own free will.
One of the transplants took place in Melbourne and the other in Sydney.
Mr McKay said there were difficulties during the operation in Melbourne when the female recipient died and had to be revived in theatre, but the Sydney transplant was a success.
Mr McKay said their community’s deepest concern was to relieve the suffering of those with kidney disease.
He said people often approached the group seeking organ donors.
The Bible-based cult claims on its website it is simply practising what the Apostle Paul preached when he urged Romans to present their bodies as “living sacrifices”.
In its latest newsletter, the cult brags about organising 12 kidney donations, including two in Australia, one in Israel and nine in the US.
“There have now been two operations done in Australia (where it was necessary to feign long-standing friendships to get them approved),” the newsletter says.
“(But) none have been done in the UK, where anonymous donations are still outlawed, more or less on the ludicrous grounds that anyone willing to donate a kidney to a stranger must be mentally unstable.”
Jesus Christians also preach that poor people should be able to sell their kidneys to hospitals, after cult members witnessed desperate villagers in India undergoing the procedure for cash.
“There are hundreds of thousands of people in the Third World who would LOVE to sell their kidneys for the kind of prices that are presently being offered on the black market — something like $US10,000 ($A14,000) plus all expenses,” the website says.
AMA Victorian president Dr Sam Lees said he was concerned Jesus Christians cult members were not only putting themselves at risk, but also organ recipients.
Dr Lees said people who were willing to lie about their relationship with the donor could also be lying about diseases that could be passed on.
He added that organ donors need to be aware of the health and emotional sacrifices they would be making.
Dr Lees said kidney donors would no longer be able to safely play contact sports and could face difficulties in obtaining health insurance.
It uses the internet to preach bizarre teachings, such as asking members to join the Virgin Army and masturbate rather than marry. If they are married, it pressures them into not having children.
July 6, 2004